Finding ‘Full Armor’
Twelve years ago on Christmas Eve, business owner, James Hillin, sat in the dark wanting to end his life. A near-fatal crash had ended his career racing motorcycles and left him paralyzed from the waist down. His marriage was over and his wife had taken the couple’s young son.
“Everything about me was gone. All I could think about was not wanting to be there,” he said. “But I didn’t want to go to hell. I believed that if I killed myself I would go to hell.”
Even though Hillin wanted to leave this world, there was a part of him that still wanted to please the God he’d met long ago in a country church, sitting next to his grandmother. He laid on the floor and asked God what he should do next.
“I started going to church at Fellowship of the Woodlands, which was a two-hour drive one-way, and I met people as part of the singles group,” he said.
“I became an associate deacon and then a deacon. And I was head of the single’s group for years,” Hillin said.
Over the next few years, the father of one grew in his faith and developed a strong relationship with his personal savior—Jesus Christ.
“I love the Lord and I’m very open about it,” he said. “Do I still make the wrong decisions? Yeah, I do. But the Lord loves me and forgives me and I keep moving forward.”
After recommitting his life to Christ, he decided to use one of his old passions to create a business with some unique attitudes.
“My dad was retired military, so the only thing I would do with my dad was shoot guns,” he said. “I’m naturally gifted at shooting, so I can basically shoot anything—guns, rifles, long range, pistols. I can also shoot one-handed from the wheelchair and outshoot everybody I know.”
This love of shooting developed into the idea to open a gun store and shooting range to help others who didn’t grow up around firearms. He also wanted to include his newfound faith in the shop’s name.
“We were trying to think of a name and a friend of mine, who’s a Christian, said, ‘How about Full Armor (referring to Ephesians 6:11 and putting on the full armor of God),’” Hillin said. “I said, that’s actually a great name, and that’s how we became Full Armor Firearms.”
He started with a small amount of money, a couple of cases of guns and “a lot of praying.” He wanted to not only give customers the shooting experience of traditional gun ranges, but a friendly experience he seldom saw at other gun shops.
“I wanted to get away from what I call the ‘gun shop mentality.’ These shops are usually run be ex-GIs who know weapons, but they don’t know people,” Hillin said. “We actually say hi to people when they walk in the door. We enjoy empowering people to protect themselves and educating them about firearms.”
Hillin and his employees will even help first-time shooters pick out a gun and give them a quick lesson on how to fire the gun before they head out to the range. The gun range is open seven days a week, but opens later on Sundays to give employees and customers the chance to go to church.
“I even have a sign on the front door that says, ‘Every Sunday we’re at Second Baptist. Come join us,’” he said.
Along with encouraging employees and customers to join him at his home church, Hillin also uses every interaction with his clients and personnel to remind them that Jesus loves them.
“My voice mails say Jesus Christ loves you, and when you’re put on hold, the message says the same thing,” he said. “I keep saying it because I want to remind people that Jesus loves them. And when they reach that moment in their lives when they’re hurting hard enough to hear [His voice], then maybe they’ll realize that he’s talking to them and it will change their lives and their attitudes.”
Hillin’s strong faith has also carried over into his personal life. The shop owner’s 11-year-old son has become his dad’s prayer partner and shooting buddy over the years.
“Even though he lives with his Mama most of the time, he still calls me every night to pray with me,” he said.
Not only is Hillin passionate about showing his son the love of Christ, but he is also passionate about teaching his son how to be safe around firearms.
“He started shooting with me when he was three-years-old. He knows all of the rules and he doesn’t mess with them,” he said. “Education is power. It’s important to teach children how to use them and to know what safe is so they won’t make a mistake.”